Call it a comeback: Fighting from behind a staple of Musselman’s Hogs

Fighting from behind a staple of Musselman’s Hogs

Arkansas forward Justin Smith (right) grabs a rebound from Texas Tech forward Marcus Santos-Silva during their NCAA Tournament second-round game Sunday. The Razorbacks, who were down by 10 points before going on to win 68-66, have won 10 games in which they trailed by nine or more points entering tonight’s game against Oral Roberts. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Before each basketball season, University of Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman likes to have a film session with his players emphasizing comeback victories.

"It could be film of an NFL team that scores two or three touchdowns late in a game, or a baseball team that's down big after the seventh or eighth inning and comes back and wins," Musselman said. "We've shown hockey teams that have scored multiple goals in a limited amount of time."

Maybe before next season Musselman should show his team highlights from comebacks put together by the Razorbacks this season.

Arkansas (24-6) has 10 victories in which it trailed by nine or more points.

One of those victories came against Oral Roberts, which plays Arkansas at 6:25 p.m. today in the NCAA South Region semifinals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Razorbacks rallied to beat the Golden Eagles 87-76 at Walton Arena in Fayetteville on Dec. 20, after Oral Roberts led by 12 points in the first half and 40-30 at halftime.

Arkansas began its 12-game winning streak against SEC teams with a 75-73 victory over Auburn at Walton Arena on Jan. 20, when the Razorbacks erased a 19-point deficit.

Other SEC victories for the Razorbacks came after they trailed Mississippi State by 13 points, Missouri by 9, LSU by 10, Texas A&M by 14 and Missouri by 10.

To reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996, the Razorbacks beat Colgate 85-68 after trailing by 14 points and beat Texas Tech 68-66 after trailing by 10.

"One, Eric does a phenomenal job," Oral Roberts Coach Paul Mills said when asked about Arkansas overcoming so many deficits to win. "He's obviously a really good basketball coach. Having taken two teams at Nevada [in 2018] and now Arkansas to a Sweet 16 is remarkable.

"To his credit, he does as good if maybe not the best job of anybody in the country of blending players from different places and bringing them together in order to play as a team.

"So whatever your lead is, because they're going to continue to play together as a team, it's not safe. He knows how to change personnel. He knows how to change styles in order to get the most out of his team."

The Razorbacks changed styles in their two NCAA Tournament victories.

Musselman started 7-3 Connor Vanover against Colgate, then tried 6-10 Jaylin Williams, then 6-8 Ethan Henderson in the game's first few minutes.

After Colgate jumped out to a 33-19 lead, Musselman went with 6-7 Justin Smith as the Razorbacks' lone big man and played four guards.

For the Texas Tech game, Musselman started Williams, who had team-highs of 10 rebounds and four assists while forming a strong inside tandem with Smith.

"It shows we can play with anybody," Smith said of how the Razorbacks had different strategies for each game. "Whatever you throw at us, we're going to be able to adjust and compete.

"I'm really proud of our guys for putting that first game behind us and not trying to play like we did against Colgate and really honing in on our game plan for [Texas Tech]. Our coaches did a really good job preparing us and getting us ready, and I think we do a really good job of following the scouting report.

"It just shows the kind of versatility we have and things we can do when we're clicking."

Musselman said the Razorbacks practice with different scenarios in mind so that if they have to make adjustments from game to game -- or even within a game -- it won't be the first time they have worked on something.

"Going into games and having a Plan A and a Plan B, and sometimes a Plan C, I think has helped us to not just be making adjustments on the fly," Musselman said. "If we feel we have to make changes, it's something that we've already drilled prior to the game. If something's not working, that's helped us."

Junior guard JD Notae said Arkansas' numerous comeback victories speak to the team's resiliency.

"We don't want to be getting down in these games, but sometimes it happens," Notae said. "So it shows you how much fight we've got and how competitive we are.

"We always think we're in the game, no matter how much we're down. We know there's not a 10-point play or a 14-point play, but we're just going to chip away, chip away, chip away."

Musselman said the coaches and players haven't shown any signs of panic when the Razorbacks fall behind.

"Honestly, it's just being able to lock in, especially down the stretch," senior guard Jalen Tate said. "We talk about games when we were down double digits.

"Just getting stops at the right time, locking in on offense after getting those stops and getting great shots, sharing the ball as a team and knowing we have pieces and the ability to come back in those games.

"Just keep willing ourselves back. Never losing hope or belief in being able to move forward, and knowing what's at stake a lot of the time."

Musselman's Nevada teams also showed the ability to rally against big deficits.

When the Wolf Pack made their Sweet 16 run in 2018, they beat Texas 87-83 in overtime after trailing by 14 points early in the second half and beat Cincinnati 75-73 after trailing by 22 points with less than 12 minutes left.

Nevada matched the second-largest deficit overcome to win an NCAA Tournament game along with Duke's 95-84 victory over Maryland at the 2001 Final Four when the Blue Devils trailed 39-17 in the first half.

BYU had the largest NCAA Tournament comeback victory when the Cougars beat Iona 78-72 in 2012 after trailing by 25 points.

"There are so many runs that can happen in a game," Musselman said. "If you fall behind, you just can never stop competing.

"You've got to keep playing hard and keep believing that you're going to win. Our guys definitely have that mentality."

No. 10 Arkansas vs. Oral Roberts

WHAT NCAA Tournament South Region semifinals

WHEN 6:25 p.m. Central today

WHERE Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

RECORDS Arkansas 24-6; Oral Roberts 18-10

SERIES Arkansas leads 11-2

RADIO Razorback Sports Network





G Max Abmas, 6-1, So.24.53.3

G Carlos Jurgens, 6-5, So.5.72.8

F Kevin Obanor, 6-8, Jr.19.09.6

F Kareem Thompson, 6-6, So.8.63.7

F Francis Lacis, 6-7, Sr.3.83.6

COACH Paul Mills (57-66 in fourth season at Oral Roberts and overall)



G Moses Moody, 6-6, Fr.17.15.8

G Jalen Tate, 6-6, Sr.10.83.8

G Davonte Davis, 6-3, Fr.8.04.3

F Justin Smith, 6-7, Sr.13.87.0

F Jaylin Williams, 6-10, Fr.3.64.8

COACH Eric Musselman (44-18 in second season at Arkansas, 154-52 in sixth season overall)


Oral RobertsArkansas

81.5Points for82.0

75.7Points against70.4

-4.6Rebound margin+11.5

+2.4Turnover margin+2.5

45.0FG pct.45.4

38.53-pt pct.39.7

82.2FT pct.73.7

CHALK TALK The Arkansas-Oral Roberts winner advances to play the Baylor-Villanova winner in the South Region final. ... The Razorbacks have not reached the Elite Eight since 1995. ... Arkansas beat Oral Roberts 87-76 on Dec. 20 at Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Justin Smith led the Razorbacks with 22 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Moses Moody scored 18 points and Desi Sills had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Kevin Obanor led Oral Roberts with 21 points and 10 rebounds. ... Arkansas is playing in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996. Oral Roberts is in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1974. ... The Golden Eagles and Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 at the only No. 15 seeds to reach the Sweet 16. ... Eric Musselman is 43-7 as the coach at Nevada and Arkansas when having four or more days to prepare for a game, including 14-0 with the Razorbacks. ... Arkansas junior guard JD Notae is averaging 13.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game off the bench. ... Oral Roberts guard RJ Glasper, a senior from Forrest City, will miss the game after suffering a season-ending knee surgery Feb. 6 against North Dakota State. ... The Golden Eagles have won seven consecutive games. ... The Razorbacks have won four in a row against Oral Roberts since a 76-63 loss in Tulsa during the 2002-03 season.

At a glance



All times Central


At Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

Baylor vs. Villanova, 4:15 p.m.

At Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

Arkansas vs. Oral Roberts, 6:25 p.m.


At Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Loyola Chicago vs. Oregon St., 1:40 p.m.

At Hinkle Fieldhouse

Houston vs. Syracuse, 8:55 p.m.


All times Central


At Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Michigan vs. Florida St., 4 p.m.

At Hinkle Fieldhouse

Alabama vs. UCLA, 6:15 p.m.


At Hinkle Fieldhouse

Gonzaga vs. Creighton, 1:10 p.m.

At Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Southern Cal vs. Oregon, 8:45 p.m.

Razorbacks' comebacks

• Arkansas has won 10 games this season in which it trailed by nine or more points, including both of its NCAA Tournament victories. One of the victories was against Oral Roberts, the team Arkansas plays tonight in a Sweet 16 matchup:


Central Arkansas 10 points Arkansas won 100-75

Oral Roberts 12 points Arkansas won 87-76

Auburn 19 points Arkansas won 75-73

Mississippi State 13 points Arkansas won 61-45

Missouri 9 points Arkansas won 86-81 (OT)

LSU 10 points Arkansas won 83-75

Texas A&M 14 points Arkansas won 87-80

Missouri* 10 points Arkansas won 70-64

Colgate^ 14 points Arkansas won 85-68

Texas Tech^ 10 points Arkansas won 68-66

*SEC Tournament

^NCAA Tournament